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Old CN Rail Station in questionable condition

Falling apart. Those are the words that spring to mind when viewing the interior of the historic Humboldt Canadian National Rail (CN Rail) train station.
The poor condition of the historic CN Rail station in Humboldt is readily apparent on the exterior of the building. Shingles are curling on the roof, windows have been boarded up and there are cracks in the foundation. Should the city decide to fix the building, a barrier would have to go up, pretty much in line with the roofline of the old building, between the track and the station before it could be used for anything.

Falling apart.
Those are the words that spring to mind when viewing the interior of the historic Humboldt Canadian National Rail (CN Rail) train station.
The Journal got a tour of the building with Darrell Lessmeister, director of Humboldt Leisure Services, last week.
And things don't look good with the property, which is actually a national heritage site built in 1905.
It's not supposed to be knocked down, CN has stated.
When rumours began to circulate recently that the old building was going to be demolished, the Journal contacted CN Rail.
This was the response from Warren Chandler, Regional Manager of CN Public and Government Affairs: "I can confirm that the Humboldt rail station is a federally protected heritage railway station. This means that the building cannot be torn down without approval from the federal government. CN has no plans to remove the building and is willing to discuss the sale of the structure with the local municipality or other interested buyers."
Just what the future will hold for the building is still very much up in the air.
This whole dilemma came to light last fall, when CN Rail constructed a new building for its staff in Humboldt. Up until then, they were using the old station for office space, sleeping rooms and to store their belongings while out on the road.
When the new building was nearly complete last winter, CN contacted the City of Humboldt and offered them the old station - the property under it, they would have to lease from CN Rail.
"We'd be responsible for maintaining and upgrading (the building)," said Lessmeister, standing on the platform where passengers once met their trains.
But whether the city can or will fix up the building has yet to be determined. Only one thing is certain - it would take a lot of money. Because there are definite issues with it, from the bottom to the top.
There are foundation issues, to begin with.
The majority of the building is sitting on wood pilings, Lessmeister stated, and they are not in good shape anymore.
"The foundation has deteriorated, which gives us a lot of concern," he said. "The foundation is really in question."
There is just a small basement - about a 10 by 10 foot space - in one part of the building, which is where the boiler is. That space actually flooded this spring and is now filled with water, and the concrete foundation in that area is cracked, one can see from the outside.
The outside of the building is definitely showing its age: most of the shingles are now curling or missing, and just last week, the windows were boarded up to keep vandals and looters out.
And inside is possibly worse.
The floors are water damaged and rolling. There are cracks in the plaster walls and areas where it has fallen right off the wall. There are also signs of rodents, and areas where it is believed there is still asbestos.
A new furnace was installed in the building in recent years, but workers have reported that it was still cold in the winter.
Debris from the move, desks and other items left in the building still litter the floors in the office and locker room.
Upstairs, in what was once the station master's quarters, it is clear that the roof has been rebraced - reports indicate that happened over a decade ago, about the same time the building was last re-shingled.
The building is something the city doesn't really want to lose, Lessmeister said. But the question becomes "how much money can you put into it?"
"Everything comes with a cost," he said - that includes both fixing up and moving the structure, which is actually in two sections. An addition was put on to the west end of the building at one point - that's where the section men office was located until recently.
Looting was reportedly occurring in the building, it was noted, as some cupboards have gone missing, along with some doors and jambs.
Anything of historical value was removed with the permission of CN for the Humboldt and District Museum and Gallery, it was added.
Overall, the condition of the station brings to mind the Humboldt Water Tower and the terrible shape it was in when citizens stepped in to save it from being destroyed.
However, Lessmeister said, this train station is a different animal from the water tower, as any future use of the building is restricted by its proximity to the rail line.
That's the second question the city is facing at this time. If they do invest in the building and fix it up, what do they use it for?
The building will be located along an active rail line, and most of the doors into the building face the tracks. There is just one entrance on the other side of the building. In order for the city to use the building for anything, a barrier would have to be installed between the building and the rail line - and in order for CN to have enough room along the track, that barrier would have to be about two feet outside the doors of the building, right along the roof line.
"There are a lot of concerns with the building, both structural and with its possible use," Lessmeister said.
Those concerns were noted from the first time the city - both staff and council - got a look at the building last December.
If they don't have a purpose for the building, fixing it up would really be a waste of money, Lessmeister believes.
Still, he is continuing with his investigation of the property. He was planning to bring a building inspector in to get a complete report on the building, and to get a rough estimate for the cost of repairing it.
The matter will then be brought to city council for their discussion.
Whether CN is going to turn the property ove to the city or demolish it, there is a process they have to follow that involves public input. That is stipulated in the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act, Lessmeister said.